Yesterday was my husband's birthday, as well as a semi regular gathering of the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers and the theme of the event was "Summer in January". I wanted to make cupcakes for my dear husband's birthday, so I figured I'd try decorating them as sunflowers as featured in this month's Martha Stewart Living.
I used to be a huge devotee of MSL, but when she went into the slammer for her little problem with the SEC, I felt the magazine lost whatever it was I liked. I let my subscription lapse. Lately, I have found myself actually buying her magazine at the grocery checkout - the content has me intrigued again. I guess I should start a new subscription. I am a certified food magazine junkie.
I am not a great cake decorator, but thought I might be able to make these sunflowers. The centers are actually supposed to be made of chocolate covered sunflower seeds, but I couldn't find them anywhere in this town. So I used chocolate sprinkles instead. The frosting is a Swiss meringue buttercream, which is my absolute favorite type of from scratch frosting. This one is a vanilla one and it's not too sweet and tastes really light. Don't be fooled, however, because it has one whole pound of butter in it. I don't even want to calculate the Weight Watchers points one of these cupcakes are. Probably a days worth, no doubt. I based my Swiss buttercream on the cupcake recipes featured in MSL this month, and my white cake from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
6 T. buttermilk powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla
4 egg whites
1. In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda . Add buttermilk powder and water, butter, and vanilla; beat on low until combined. Beat on medium 2 minutes more, scraping bowl. Add egg whites; beat 2 minutes more.
2. Place 30 paper cup cake liners in cup cake pans. Fill each half full with batter. Bake 18-23 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched and wooden pick inserted near centers comes out clean.
3. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.
Makes 30 cup cakes
Swiss Meringue Icing
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into pats about 1/4 inch thick.
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Whisk sugar, whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water. Heat mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer, whisking occasionally.
2. Using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. It should look like marshmallow cream at this point when you lift the whisk out of the bowl - and the peaks should stay standing and not collapse.
3. At medium speed, and add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add vanilla.
4. Add yellow gel food coloring until you have a sunflower yellow color. Fill an icing bag with the frosting, and attach a leaf tip, which looks like like a dunce cap with a v taken out of the top. When making the petals, make sure the v notch is perpendicular to the cupcake top.
5. Start at the center of the cupcake and pipe petals to the outer diameter, rotating the cake as you go. Then add another row (or more, depending on how much time you have) of shorter petals on top of it.
6. Make a funnel with a piece of paper that has a diameter at the narrow end of about 1/4 inch and point that end at the center of the cake. Pour chocolate sprinkles through the funnel to make the center.